What the Advent Candles Symbolize

From the St. Aiden’s Monastery blog, here’s a nice summary of what each week’s Advent candle symbolizes:

The Candles symbolize that Jesus is the Light of the World.

There are four candles, one for each Sunday leading to Christmas and a fifth candle for Christmas day. The four Sunday candles are usually tapers. There are variations in the colouring of the candles, often there are three purple and one pink candle. Occasionally, all of the candles are purple. The central candle is usually a large white pillar candle.

The purple represents repentance. The pink symbolizes joy. The central candle is called the Christ candle and is not lit until Christmas day. When you light the candle it is customary to read a few verses of scripture that relate to meaning of the candle. Often the person who lights the candle recites a short statement of belief and faith as the candle is lit and then everyone unites in prayer.

The First Candle (The Candle of Prophecy/Hope)

The first candle is sometimes called the candle of prophecy because it symbolizes the promises the prophets delivered as messages from God; promises that foretold Christ’s birth. Others consider the candle to be a symbol of the hope we have in Christ and so it is called the Hope candle.

The Second Candle (The Candle of the Way) [Light / Truth]

The second candle shows that Christ is the Way. Christians are lost in sin and Christ is the Light sent into the world to show them the way out of darkness.

Read the rest


UPDATED for 2014

The fact that this is one of the top 3 entries of all time on our blog with nearly 30,000 page views indicates that there is a LOT of interest in knowing about the symbolism of the Advent Wreath and the candles that are lit each week!  The above blog post we linked back in 2008 doesn’t really give a very detailed overview.  I originally posted it because I thought it provided good short Christ-centered explanations for each candle’s meaning.

There are MANY slightly different variations on the the meanings of each Advent Candle.  (One explanation for that is that weekly Sunday lectionary readings for Advent rotate from year to year in a 3 year cycle, and each year represents slightly different themes in the readings.)

The excellent site FaithandWorship.com provides perhaps the best overview I’ve seen anywhere about the different variations in themes and meanings for the 4 weeks / 4 candles of Advent.  There are 15 different variations of 4 themes listed, with Scripture passages included for each week:

**  Faith and Worship’s page on Advent Themes **

Here are a few more good links which discuss the meaning and symbolism of the Advent Candles.

Short overviews about Advent Wreaths and the meaning of the Candles:

Prayers and readings for each week’s Advent Candle lighting:

We’d LOVE for readers to leave comments with links to good resources they find releated to Advent Wreaths and Candles!  Thanks.

10 Responses to What the Advent Candles Symbolize

  1. robroy says:

    Dear Jill, thanks for posting this. This year will be exciting for our family. We have recently adopted a little girl from China who is 6. I am pretty sure she was raised Buddhist before this. (We saw her pretend praying to one of her dolls.) She didn’t want to participate in family grace before supper at first and would cover her ears – we sing the Johnny Appleseed grace and then go around saying what we are thankful for. Perhaps she didn’t like my singing! Anyway, she is now starting to participate which is a joy. She has started to learn about our good Lord in Sunday School. We will have an altar wreath, and it is a good time family worship.

    Blessings on your wonderful ministry!

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  4. June Celliers says:

    Thank you for this wonderful insight about Advent, it brings new life into such an important season of the year.Bless you

  5. tom says:

    this is a terrible explination i want what all five candles mean not just two

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